Meet three UAE expats who converted to Islam
Mathieu (L) and Hamida (R)
Dubai - For some, it was a 'dream' that started it all.
Three different UAE expats have converted to Islam after having dreams of themselves reading the Quran or witnessing historical religious events, according to an Islamic centre in Dubai.
The Kalemah Islamic Centre said the number of converts to Islam is fast growing, with 341 UAE expats who converted from June 2016 to June 2017 - all who have their own unique reasons for converting.
Khaleej Times reported last October that Islam was the fastest growing religion in the world. The Pew Research Centre highlighted that the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 73 per cent - from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion by 2050.
Four UAE residents who converted to Islam spoke to Khaleej Times, including an Indian woman who ended her 20-year marriage after her husband refused to convert after her.
They spoke about why they converted (reverted, according to Islamic beliefs) and their struggles of revealing the news to their families.
Hameeda converted in 2013 and asked her husband of 20 years to convert because, according to Sharia law, Muslim women cannot marry men of other religions.
"I never thought in my life that I would be a Muslim. I gave priority to my religion, which was Christianity," Hadeema said, who was called Anita before.
"I've been living in UAE since 1999 and I always loved listening to the Adhan and the khutba (public Islamic preaching) on Fridays and it seemed a great advice to me spiritually.
"I regularly attended the church every week and one fine day, I left early to church, so I would get the front row seat, but I couldn't find parking, and missed the beginning of the sermon. I got upset and left half way and drove back home.
The following week, I didn't feel like going to church and as time passed by I even stopped reading the bible , which made me sense this change . My son was asking me what was wrong with me.
"I had a Filipina colleague who's also was a revert. I shared about what change I was going through. She took me to a majlis. There, the sheikh acknowledged me about the teaching of Islam and Christianity, after which I self-analysed and began moving towards the spiritual journey of Islam.
Hameeda reverted In 2013 and after 20 years of marriage she decided to part ways from her husband as per sharia law, however, her sisters, family and her son completely supports her decision .Though, her husband was against her decision.
Indian expat Omer converted from Hinduism to Islam in 2014 when his faith in the religion grew stronger after reading the Quran. "I was never a proper Hindu. I always used to find myself questioning things," he said.
"I used to study Hinduism and Buddhism. Then I started studying Christianity. That's when I learned about Islam. There were a lot of similarities in the Quran. I learned that everything was so clear.
It did take me a while to revert, though, because I had been studying Islam for two years."
After Omer's family learned that he had converted, his father cut off communication with him. His family did not attend his wedding because of it. Now, they are warming up to him since the birth of his new child.
Finding peace, "way to heaven", becoming a better person and to be more religious - these are some of many reasons why more than 200 UAE residents decided to convert to Islam.
In a survey by Kalemah Islamic Centre in Dubai, residents revealed why they became Muslims.
One Filipino expat in Dubai, who was a former Catholic, said she converted to pray five times a day and to listen to Adhan.
"In Philippines, we don't listen to Adhan. This is my first time," she said.
A Ukranian woman said: "I moved to UAE and was impressed how Muslim people praying and how honorable they are with the religion."
Meanwhile, another Filipino expat said: "A friend has been a very good example of being a Muslim and it caught my attention to know more about Islam. I love how Islam teaches children to have a very high respect with their parents and how important family is."
Though, when asked what was the "major difficulty" they experienced after converting to Islam, a majority of respondents said it was informing their families about the conversion.
A French expat in the UAE, Mathieu Garvi, said his father was an Atheist and his mother, a Christian.
He had a Christian upbringing, however, he started questioning his faith after meeting a Muslim-Morroccan friend of his back in France.
"We were playing video games and he stopped and said 'I'll be back after prayer'. And then I thought 'wow, he stopped in the middle of the day to pray'," Garvi said.
After that, he started studying the bible. He also studied Buddhism, but he said it wasn't what he "was looking for".
"I started reading the Quran and I was so convinced. It didn't have any contradictions and was clear," he said.